September 11, 2012
Hockey rink doubles as drunk tank
By QMI Agency
WINNIPEG — With no access to RCMP cell blocks, band constables on the Northlands First Nation have to use the hockey rink as their drunk tank, says Chief Joe Antsanen.
“It is unsafe. When a person is intoxicated -- sometimes they’re violent. And sometimes there might be a relationship problem at home, sometimes there might be kids at home. So as leaders, we have to do something about that.”
The hockey locker room is the safest place in the community, Antsanen said.
“I’ve tried anywhere I can,” he said. “The safest place is the arena ... where it has solid concrete walls, solid doors, solid floors.”
But hockey season is about to start.
Guards also need to be paid overtime to stand guard outside the locker rooms, which will cost the reserve $150,000-$200,000 this year, Antsanen estimated.
That’s less than the amount it would cost them -- or the province -- to fix the problem, by training staff to get band constable certification. Antsanen said they can’t afford to get the certification the province is asking for until they can stop paying guards overtime.
The province used to pay for the $10,000-$12,000/person training -- through funding to aboriginal advocacy group MKO -- but that was cut, he said.
“All I’m asking for is if we can get back the cell block keys,” he said.
He said Manitoba Justice and the RCMP took the keys away in March, after reaching an agreement that the band constabulary needs certified staff to use the facility.
But he needs the facility even to do the training, Antsanen said.
He’s frustrated that if staff quit or leave the community for a short period, they can’t return to constable status.
“I’m not the only one. There will be other chiefs coming forward with the same concerns and the same problems,” Antsanen said.
RCMP Const. Miles Hiebert says the RCMP doesn’t administer the band constable program and is not in a position to comment on it.
“The RCMP is committed to serving Manitoba’s northern communities and continues to provide professional, quality policing service,” Hiebert said in an e-mail. “In the interest of public safety and lawful confinement, RCMP detention facilities are required to be staffed and utilized by trained personnel and authorized peace officers.”
Manitoba Justice could not immediately be reached for comment.